British Columbia

John Furlong back: UBC president reverses controversial decision

UBC has reversed its earlier decision to cancel John Furlong's appearance at a fundraising event, with President Santa Ono saying the earlier decision was wrong.

'With today’s decision we are making right the fundamental wrong,' says UBC president

John Furlong, seen here addressing a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in 2015, was reinstated as a speaker at a UBC fundraising event after the university initially cancelled his speech in December. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

UBC has reversed its earlier decision to cancel John Furlong's keynote address at a fundraising event, with President Santa Ono saying the earlier decision was wrong.

"I have made it my decision as president of the university to reverse course because it is simply the right thing to do," wrote Ono in a statement issued Monday morning.

The former Vancouver Olympics CEO's "stellar reputation" and the judicial record were key factors in the decision to invite him back to speak at the fundraising breakfast for the university's scholarship fund for varsity athletes in February, Ono said.

"The British Columbia Civil and Supreme Courts have ruled in favour of Mr. Furlong in every matter that has come before them. The university had no basis to put its judgment above theirs," he wrote.

Furlong honoured to appear

On his website, Furlong said he was honoured to accept an invitation to speak at the event once again.

"I'm deeply grateful to the countless Canadians who overwhelmed my family and I with heartfelt support during these past two weeks. It's been very humbling and helped immensely in keeping spirits up," he said in the statement.

"I respect and appreciate that president Ono and board chair Stuart Belkin have shown decisive leadership, making a wrong decision right," he wrote.

While Furlong was not doing interviews on Monday, a spokesperson from his office said they were focused on rebuilding his public speaking career.

"It is coming back nicely. Definitely momentum is picking up," said Andrea Shaw, who said Fulong made about 10 appearances last year.

Dropped abruptly

Furlong was dropped from the UBC fundraising event abruptly just before New Years after concerns were raised online about his involvement.

A few days later, Ono apologized publicly to Furlong for the move, saying he had no part in it and it was poorly handled.

In 2015, Furlong, the former Vancouver Olympics CEO, won his court battle against journalist Laura Robinson, who wrote a story about his past as a teacher at a First Nations school in Burns Lake, B.C.

The story detailed abuse allegations against Furlong which have never been tested in court and which he has vehemently denied. An RCMP investigation into the allegations did not lead to charges.

now